January 17, 2012

Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinsons

By Lara Parr, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire)- Those suffering from Parkinson's disease have hope for improved quality of life according to results from St. Jude Medical, Inc. which showed that patients treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS) experienced better motor function.

DBS involves implanting a device into the brain that acts as a neurostimulator. It delivers electrical stimulation to specific areas in the brain that control movement and blocks abnormal nerve signals that cause tremors and other unwanted movement associated with Parkinson's disease. The aim of the study was to examine the ability of DBS to increase the amount of time patients did not experience involuntary movements.

There have been studies in the past on DBS comparing its effectiveness to medicines, but this study is the first to compare patients implanted with DBS systems with and without stimulation. In this study, a portion of the patients didn't get their devices turned on for three months. Even these patients experienced the involuntary movements less frequently, which suggests having the DBS device placed into the brain is in and of itself beneficial. Patients whose DBS devices received stimulation experienced even more time without involuntary movements.

The devices receiving stimulation in this study, received constant stimulation. In the future, researchers may not need to leave the devices on all the time. Michael S. Okun, M.D., administrative director of the University Of Florida College of Medicine's Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration and National Medical Director for the National Parkinson Foundation told Ivanhoe, "We hope to move on to more scheduled approaches and to have more tailored and personalized treatment for the patient .We are really interested in this study opening the door to a better understanding of the patterns of neural signals and how they correspond to specific diseases."

SOURCE: The Lancet Neurology Journal, January 2012, phone interview with Dr. Michael Okun on January 11, 2012